August 30, 2008

Sunday, 8/31

PI 10:11
LAT 8:10
NYT 8:07
BG tba
CS tba

Argh! It took me 40 seconds to root out my typo in Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times crossword, "Extra Play." I think many of us who time ourselves have a cutoff in mind, below which we're delighted by our performance. Or a rival we want to edge out. For me, the Sunday cutoff is 8 minutes flat, and typoing myself out of clocking in ahead of Byron (...[Poet who wrote "She walks in beauty, like the night"]) Walden makes me grumbly. (I'll feel worse when the other speed demons show up and put me to shame too. ..Yep, there's Howard Barkin now.) UBSAY! That B is right next to the N key.

As for the puzzle itself: Hey! I like it. "Extra Play" in sports is sometimes called OT, or overtime, and the theme entries are altered by the addition of OT to the end of one word. The theme answers alternate between the first and last words taking the OT. A few of the theme entries made me smile:

  • [Plea made to a chimney sweep] is SAY IT AIN'T SOOT. Can you hear it? "Say it ain't soot, Joe. Say it ain't soot."
  • [Distribute equal amounts?] is ALLOT THE SAME.
  • [Vote involved in a 15th wedding anniversary?] is CRYSTAL BALLOT.
  • [Narrow-minded affairs?] are BIGOT BUSINESS.
  • [Teacher's pet?] is a SCHOOLMARMOT. Marmots are cute! 
  • [Stop to admire one's pillaging?] is LOOT AND BEHOLD. "This village is officially sacked. It's breath-taking, isn't it?"
  • [Sexiest bell ringer?] is BARDOT OF AVON. Not a cathedral bell ringer—an Avon door-to-door doorbell ringer.
  • [Part of a Beckett play?] is AN ACT OF GODOT.

The clues and answers I liked the most are:
  • [Humorist Sedaris] is AMY. I've been seeing her on Nickelodeon in promos for Gym Teacher: The Movie, airing on September 12. If you like Sedaris but don't usually watch Nickelodeon, mark your calendar.
  • [Three times a day, on an Rx] is TID. At last! It's not TER! Doctors don't use the TER that the T is short for; they use tid. Speaking of thrice-daily dosing, [Again and again?] is THRICE.
  • [World capital said to have been founded by King Midas] is ANKARA. Trivia I never knew!
  • I needed the crossings to tell me what the [Theater annoyance] was. SNORER? BURPER? TALKER? No, it's the little gadget called a BEEPER. Who carries those now? Do doctors need 'em?
  • TOY STORY is the [Movie with the repeated line "To infinity, and beyond!" I just realized how ridiculous Buzz Lightyear's catchphrase is. You can't reach infinity and you sure as heck can't go beyond it. ...Can you?
  • UNO is the [Game with Wild Draw Four cards]. In the Obama biography video aired Thursday night, the Obama family was seen playing Uno together. Aww.
  • [___ blocker], four brain went to medicine and beta-blockers. Nope! It's SPAM here.
  • [Stern cry?] is AHOY because that's Howard Stern's catchphrase, of course. No, it isn't. It's what a sailor might shout from the stern of a ship.
  • [They have substantial bills] refers to TOUCANS. I confess that I have a box of Toucan Sam's cereal of choice, Froot Loops—but it's the Reduced Sugar box so it's one half notch less crappy. But still tasty! Yum, dyes.
  • [Guam, e.g.: Abbr.] is a U.S. TERR. Did you know Guam and the other U.S. territories will have "state" quarters next year? So don't think your quarter collection is complete after Alaska and Hawaii come out.
  • The opposite of exhume is apparently INHUME, or [Bury]. The word makes me think of Brit Hume. On your way to be inhumed, ride in your [Last ride?], the HEARSE.
  • [Hungarian playwright known for "Liliom"] is MOLNAR. This one wasn't a particular favorite, but I'll throw it in there for Googlers. [Like a line, briefly] is ONED, or ONE-D, meaning one-dimensional. ONED, TWOD, and THREED often throw solvers because the spelled-out numbers are seldom ever used with the D.


I probably won't get to all the Sunday puzzles today—an out-of-town guest came a day early, the Jazz Festival is in town, and the blue skies are glorious.

I just solved Pancho Harrison's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Good Help Is Hard to Find," and regrettably, I found the theme off-putting. Each one is an occupation modified by an adjectival phrase that rhymes with it, but the results clank rather than sing. An [Out-of-shape policeman?], for example, is an ABOUT-TO-DROP COP, and a [Wandering cabby?] is a WAY-OFF-TRACK HACK. The theme phrases don't have a natural flow to them, and they're not inherently funny either. I will surely enjoy Pancho's subsequent crosswords much more, as I've really liked many of his earlier ones.

Time to head downtown—I bid you adieu for now.

Updated Monday morning:

I did Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Guess the Theme," late last night when I was falling asleep. I was too tired to notice the theme in the first 11 long entries before I reached 112-Across, which revealed what tied the theme together: IT'S THE BERRIES is an [Old expression of admiration] that I've never heard before, but it does point the way to the berry theme: Each theme entry contains a word or part of a word that can be followed by berry. ALAN CRANSTON serves up cranberries; a STATE SLOGAN, loganberries; CHUCKLE-HEADED, huckleberries; RASPUTIN, raspberries; TRUE BLUE, blueberries—and so on. Cute! I confess I have no idea what berry lurks within HALLELUJAH.